The next Belgian prime minister will be either Alexander De Croo from the Flemish liberals or Paul Magnette from the Walloon socialists — if they can form a government in the coming days.
King Philippe on Wednesday asked De Croo and Magnette to take the lead in the next stage of coalition talks, appointing them so-called formateurs, the final step in government formation, the royal palace confirmed.
They will report back to the king on September 28 and aim to form a government by October 1, with one of the two party leaders as PM.
The announcement was a major breakthrough in the talks, as the potential seven-party coalition had seemed close to collapse. On Sunday, the leader of the French-speaking liberals, George-Louis Bouchez, called into question almost all of the areas that had supposedly been agreed upon.
The king pushed the leaders of the so-called Vivaldi coalition — French- and Dutch-speaking liberals, socialists and greens as well as Dutch-speaking Christian democrats — to continue talking. Despite the wide range of parties involved, the future coalition would not have a majority of seats in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, as the Flemish nationalist N-VA and the far-right Vlaams Belang haven’t been given a seat at the coalition table.
“During the last two days, we have worked hard to restore trust between partners,” said one of the leaders of the negotiating process, Egbert Lachaert from the Flemish liberals. “We finalized our report to the king tonight, and based on the report, he decided to appoint Alexander De Croo and Paul Magnette as co-formateurs. They were already involved in the exercise, and can continue to work quickly,” Lachaert said.
The parties of both Magnette and De Croo claim that they should lead the government. The same thing happened in 2014 when the king appointed both the French-speaking liberal Charles Michel and the Flemish Christian democrat Kris Peeters as co-formateurs. Michel won that race.